Torchwood 2LF.3: The House of the Dead review

Review

The House of the Dead

Submission review

Ianto: Jack. Something’s happening…

You must watch Torchwood: Children of Earth before reading this review (and also listen to The House of the Dead), plot is discussed…

The third and final of the Torchwood “The Lost Files” – the idea of these (broadcast just before Miracle Day) stories is that they’re set before Torchwood: Children of Earth – focuses, like the previous one, on Captain Jack and Ianto Jones.

Ianto Jones.

There was an “Ianto Jones” in RTD’s 2004 ITV drama Mine All Mine. Also played by Gareth David-Lloyd!

It was Torchwood‘s version of “Ianto Jones” that was taken to the hearts of TV viewers, in a way even more so than the other the-main-cast-from-the-start Torchwood characters Owen and Toshiko – who lasted two whole seasons of the show.

The death of the character Ianto Jones in the third season of Torchwood, “Children of Earth“, prompted an extraordinary reaction. There’s an “Ianto shrine”, a memorial to the character in Cardiff Bay at one of the locations used for filming of the Torchwood Hub exterior.

It’s a tribute to the depth of character created, or perhaps rather to the depth of relationship between two male characters in a Science Fiction drama, something unique.

The death of Ianto was a dramatic overshadow to the previous “Lost File” drama, with various lines heavy with dramatic irony.

This story of – apparently – the ghosts of deceased loved ones coming back, via a séance in a “haunted” pub, has obvious retroactive foreshadowing for the relationship of Ianto & Jack.

“Ianto. Ianto Jones – I came looking for ya”, 21 minutes in (half the runtime) Jack rejoins Ianto at the pub, after their joint investigation has been separated, though they didn’t arrive together (they briefly met earlier as Ianto stumbled upon Jack). Ianto’s been chatting to Gwen over the walkie-talkie about how Jack’s being mysterious about all this. Gwen’s suspicious of their Torchwood leader.

Gwen’s continuing with her warnings to Ianto over the airwaves about Jack, right up until the 28-minute mark when Jack points out his headset isn’t switched on.

“You’re not Gwen!”

Siriath is “manipulating us both” says Jack, (Siriath being the third cosmic entity in a row for these radio dramas, a being that can warp time), and “Siriath uses the dead against us” (Ianto has encountered the “ghost” of his dead father).

It’s 32 minutes in to the 44 minutes of drama and the twist of this tale is slowly being spelled out.

It’s clever that “In these stones, horizons sing” (the words above the Torchwood hub) are used to poetically describe the “box of pebbles” that Jack is going to use to close the Rift – Ianto’s father’s ghost appears, to argue against this course of action.

This ghost also says to Jack – “You knew what you’d find if you came to the House of the Dead didn’t you? I can’t believe you’re going to let him die – again”.

35 minutes and Jack makes the twist clear: “Ianto – six months ago, you died in my arms. You’re a ghost. I came looking for you”.

“I didn’t dream it would actually be you”. Siriath has reached into time.

It’s a dramatic final nine minutes – Ianto is at first not impressed that Jack’s brought him back. “I didn’t ask to come back” – “Neither did I” replies Jack. It’s a really well-written sequence in which the emotions between the two spill out.

Ianto changes his mind though as he realises Jack intends to stay and use the pebbles, meaning he’ll be lost in the space between worlds. Ianto suggests another way: “We could just go” – “The Rift, ancient evil, magic pebbles, just for once… let someone else deal with it”.

This last scene allows Jack to re-emphasise the importance of Ianto to him, something maybe that the many fans of this duo would want to hear; it’s a do-over of their goodbye scene really, a scene that so distressed a lot of the fans.

Of course though Ianto isn’t leaving the House of the Dead – in Doctor Who tradition he’s staying to complete the mission of “saving the world”. (It was a feint to get Jack out of danger.)

“Someone’s gotta destroy the Rift”.

So it’s not just some sort of closure for the fans of Ianto, but also actual closure for the Rift.

Torchwood: Children of Earth was the end for many of the icons of Torchwood – the Hub, the Torchwood-mobile, the character Ianto, so there’s a poetic appropriateness to this pre-Miracle Day chapter of Torchwood closing the Cardiff Rift as Torchwood (well, Gwen and Jack) get ready for the new world of America.

Quantity-ratings (click here for guide to rating system):

WordbuildingWorld-map4/5
GoreWeevil-chomp1/5
DancingCarys2/5
AngstTear-stained-pizza5/5
AliensPhiloctetes1/5
Episode Quality-rating: Grin4/5

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(The House of the Dead on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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